In The Pink

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The dark days are here.  The needled foliage of the yews are not spring or summer green.  They are black green.  The colder the weather, the darker the color.  By contrast with the snow, the boxwood foliage is dark too.  I don’t mind it, really.  Not now.  But as the winter drags on and on, that brown, black green, black, gray and white can get to be tiresome.  Not that I envy gardeners in California.  I wouldn’t trade how one season gives way to the next for a warm and sunny winter.  Having grown up in the midwest, a warm and sunny winter would just seem wrong.

pink-eucalyptus.jpgBut I won’t have to worry about coping with a limited and severe color palette.  My winter garden in front of my house will be in the pink-dreary winter month after dreary winter month.  Does the pink in this pot seem implausible?  Not to my eye.  The curly copper willow looks great with the brick.  The gold sinamay has enough orange and enough mass to look like a party. The pink eucalyptus has a lavender cast, set against the cinnamon brown willow.  Pink is by no means a traditional holiday color, but why not?   How a color reads has everything to do with its relationship to neighboring colors.  Color also reads so differently in daylight, or night light. Suffice it to say, we will have an abundance of gray days the next few months.  I like the idea of unexpected winter color.

holiday-garland.jpgThe holiday garland features pink bits.  Funny how what seemed in the studio to be overwhelmingly pink looks so much more reserved outdoors.

evergreen-garland.jpgIt is hard to make out the individual elements from the street.  There is the dark green of the evergreen boughs, punctuated by a color and forms that attract the eye.  Pink may be out of season in the garden, but it is in season in my holiday garden.  Of course anyone who comes to the door gets a clearer view.  That is the point, of course.  My landscape has a street presentation-neat, simple and well kept-and not especially given to the personal details. Those details are reserved for people I know and expect.  For a guest that arrives at the front door, there is an element of surprise.

pink-eucalyptus.jpgI would call this a juicy look.  In contrast to the austere look of the overall winter landscape. I favor juicy, no matter the season.  As in hellebores in really early spring, tulips in the late spring, and roses in June, and the hibiscus in late summer. I like flowers in the landscape.  Clematis in bloom is quite unlike the color of any other green plant.  As much as I like boxwood, yews, hosta, lady’s mantle and Princeton Gold maples, I like colors other than green-no matter the season.

winter-pot.jpgWhite in the winter is a regular feature.  Snow is snow.  In this picture, the orange and pink looks companionable to the remains of my hydrangeas.  The color scheme fits right in.  The snow makes its own demands visually.  Everything snow touches turns their color close to black.  Snow that falls on temperature darkened ever greens is all about the contrast between black and white.

tree-in-the-side-yard.jpgMy pot in the side garden has a cut Christmas tree in it, strung with 7 strands of mini lights. At night, the glow is visible from the street, and from the south side of my house.  I find that warm light comforting.  Appropriate to the season.  The lights add another color to the winter landscape-a warm color.

parrotia-in-winter.jpgLest you think there is no pink in the Michigan landscape in the third week of December, I invite you to give a look at my Parrotia.  It is the very last tree in my yard to change color.  The leaves are a brilliant yellow in late fall.  This tree has yet to give up its leaves.  They might stay stuck the entire winter.  The dry leaves are pink – granted a muddy subtle brownish pink.  But pink,  nonetheless.

 

At A Glance: More Holiday Garlands

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It’s December in the garden.  Time to hang it up.

 

Festooned

A festoon is a decorative chain or strip hung between two points-this I relay to you from the dictionary. The holiday celebration provide plenty of encouragement  to drape, swag, run, attach, and hang garlands-both inside and out.  A garland can be a wreath-hung on a door.  Or placed horizontally over the top of a birdbath.  Or over the light fixtures at the front door.  Or in the windows. A wreath in every window-lovely. 

A length of garland, or a festoon, can be made from lots of materials, strung together.  Evergreen garlands are our most popular garland.  An evergreen garland is not only beautfiul to look at, it smells great.  All of our garland is custom made, from three diferent types of fir.  Douglas, noble and concolor fir make an evergreen garland with lots of volume.   

 Our garlands are triple the size of ordinary garland. I like a generous look over a door, or swagged on a gate.  In places where an entrance is really large, I double over the garland, which makes it between 15-18 inches wide.  Fresh garland of this size is extremely heavy-all of those branches are attached to wood from whence those green branches came. 

 

If we need 50 feet of garland to go over an entrance or porch, we cut that garland in half, and reattach it in the center, so the branches are pointing in the same direction, whether they are on the left side, or the right side.  I find a garland where the branches go up one side, and down the other visually disconcerting. All up, or all down-take your pick.

 Should the branch tips face up, or down?  I like all of the leaves of a magnolia garland to face up.  As the leaves dry, they succumb to gravity, fall, and open up.  This makes the garland wider.  The leaves curl beautifully as they dry.  An upfacing position will give each leaf room to make its own statement.   If magnolia leaves face down, they will close even tighter as they dry-gravity will make the leaves hug the woody stems.

 

Evergreen garland hung with the branches facing up will have a wild, cottagy, and rustic look.  The branches will fall out and down.  This is a great look for a large stone fireplace, an oversized wood arbor, a wood fence of good size, or over the barn door.  An evergreen garland for a more formal home might be more subtle and contained, with the branches facing down.

Many garlands are created by tieing boughs to a stout rope.  Thus the word-roping.  The rope is much more flexible than the boughs-eventually the greens will conform to the shape in which they are hung.  A small garland designed for a dining room table might have small branches wired to make a length, as pictured above.  A garland can be very short, and very striking.  Or very long, and equally striking.

Garland on a mantel can be a challenge, if the mantle is very shallow.  I have never been successful in convincing a clients to put brads in a mantel, so I can wire the garland to it-I have no idea why.  This is why garland clips and heavy candlesticks are so popular on the mantel-they keep the garland in place.  I sometimes put heavy pots on a mantel, and tuck the garland behind them.  This keeps everything secure.

We do on occasion attach boughs to a stout bamboo stake, cut a foot or two shorter than the mantel.  The stake keeps the entire assemblage where it belongs on a very shallow mantle.  If you choose this method of construction, be sure to cut off the branchlets on the back side, so the pole can sit right next to the wall.  We almost always insert extra greens into the garland after it is in place, so it looks thick and full.

To drape, or not to drape?  In very formal rooms, I like the garland the width of the mantel.  If the garland in a formal room drapes to the floor, how the garland pools on the floor is very important.  Pooling garland on the floor like heavy taffeta drapes can be beautiful.  On occasion, on a formal exterior portico, I will widen the garland at the bottom, so it pools like heavy drapes.  This means adding extra branches, or an extra section of garland about half way down. 

 In informal rooms, I love the evergreen mantel garland to the floor.  Bulky, not too controlled, and friendly.  I like it loaded with  other natural materials.  Sugar pine cones, dried stems, eucalyptus, berries-the list of materials that can festoon your garland is long.  Wired burlap ribbon, twisted and swagged, can be a beautiful companion.

Not all garlands need to be constructed from evergreens.  Rob is well known for his light garland design-we make lots of them.  They may look a little stilted when they are first hung-be sure you measure the lengths you are swagging-do not count on your eye.  Once those light garlands come on, the heat warms the wires-when warm, they swoop beautifully.

 

Any material can be attached along a flexible base to make a garland.  Pine cone garlands are dense and stiff.  They are great in a straight run.  Need them to drop?  Cut them, and rewire at that spot you need them change direction.  A few years ago I found tubes of platinum colored bead garlands in 30 foot lengths at English Gardens.  They were beautiful on my tree-like jewelry.  Gorgeous garland.

Festive-this is what  garland provides to a home and a garden at the holidays.  This holiday garland is quietly elegant.  Just like my clients.   My garland over my front door-I leave it up all winter.  If the neighbors think I am eccentric, they don’t say so.  It could be they like it as much as I do.

Holiday Decorating

 Yesterday was my first indoor holiday installation.  A client with an event coming up the first week of December wanted the bones of her holiday decor in place before Thanksgiving. This pair of topiaries began with moss mat glued over foam cones.  The spiral garlands of reindeer moss, accompanied by a delicate silver wire garland took some time and patience to glue up, but the result is festive and elegant.  The formal dining room sideboard fresh decor can be added just before the event.  Fresh materials at the holiday look and smell great, but I like adding them at the last minute.  Holiday ornament like this-tall, thin, and taking up little space-can be used in lots of different places.  Perhaps next year’s decor will call for them on a mantel.         

The breakfast room has an entirely different feeling than the formal dining room.  A garland studded with faux fruit is draped over the Welsh cupboard.    We filled her wood trough with lots of the same fruit.   This room is ready for the last minute addition of fresh greens, and candles. 

This pair of mossed cubes were topped with coulter pine cones, and variegated English boxwood.  Pinus coulteri is native to southern California and northern Mexico.  It produces the largest cones of any pine.  They can grow to a length of 16 inches, and weigh 10 pounds a piece.  I thought this pair of sculptures would look appropriate in the library.


The moss mat was applied over dry floral foam, making it easy to glue the heavy cones in an upright position, and insert the springs of boxwood.  They have a comfortably masculine look that is appropriate for the room.   

We paid lots of  holiday oriented attention to the foyer.  The moment a guest arrives, what they see first creates a lasting impression.  This is why I devote so much attention to the landscape of the driveway. The end of my drive is the foyer of my garden.  I come home every day, and I want what I see first when I get there to be beautiful and inviting. Decorating the foyer mirror and sconces means there is plenty of room on the table for family pictures, a holiday hostess gift, or a tray of champagne.  The oval magnolia wreath we made by gluing individual leaves over a foam form; the size and shape is friendly to the mirror.  A small suction cup provides a hook; the wreath weighs very little.  The sconces have glass ornament, silvery picks, silver fabric leaves, and magnolia wired to them.       

We dressed the staircase in a long needled faux pine garland.  We added glass holiday ornaments, glittered wire flower ornaments, and silvery pine picks for a soft and dressy look.  The result is beautiful and elegant.  The garland is affixed to the outside of the railing with black zip ties-this is friendly to the wood finish on the railing.  In between each length of garland-a pine pick of the same style.  This helps make a graceful transition from one garland swag to the next.  Most faux garlands are 6 feet long-which may or may not work with the length of your staircase.  The added picks helps to make the garland fit the space.

The living room fireplace mantel is short, with little depth. We attached overlapping bunches of preserved and whitewashed eucalyptus to a bamboo pole, cut to a length just shy of the width of this mantle.  We dressed that eucalyptus with silver fir greens, sparkly picks, and just a pair of bleached cones. Those cones address in a subtle way the color of the brass fireplace fender.  

The result is mindful of the elaborate carving on the mantel, and formal presentation of the fireplace.  Not every mantel asks for holiday garland that goes to the floor.  We will add a fresh and decorated wreath to the space above the fireplace, just before the event.  That wreath will be concolor and noble fir; both of these greens keep indoors over the course of the holiday. 


The fresh fir garland over the front door will stay fresh, given that the air temperature is cold.  The glass ornaments have had their caps glued on, to keep moisture out.  Not seen in this picture, a massive second story overhang supported by columns that will protect the glass from too much exposure to the weather.  The pots at the front door-this we will do next week.  This holiday project is well underway.